In our sleep deprived world, naptime is one of life’s most underrated pleasures. Taking a short but sweet nap in the afternoon is a wonderful way to catch up on lost sleep. According to recent studies, short “power naps” boost mental acuity which helps improve on-the-job performance. And according to Dr. Sara Mednick, author of Take a Nap, Change Your Life, napping can improve your creativity by relaxing your mind. Naps might even help reduce heart disease risk: a 2007 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine determined that taking a nap could turn out to be an important weapon in the fight against coronary mortality. Here are six essential nap time rules of engagement:
Set Your Timer for a 26-Minute Nap
A 1995 study from NASA proved that a 26 minute nap improves on-the-job performance by 34% and alertness by 54%. Any longer than that, and you risk falling into a deep sleep, causing you to wake up with a case of grogginess, a.k.a. sleep inertia. If you’re going to nap, set a timer for 26 minutes and promise not to hit the snooze button.
Take Your Nap in the Afternoon
Plan a post-lunch nap, when humans naturally feel a lower level of alertness. Just say no to naps after 3 p.m.: nap too late in the day and you risk having a harder time falling asleep at your regular bedtime, disrupting your sleep pattern altogether.
Establish a Consistent Nap Time
Establish your sleep (circadian) rhythms by trying to nap (and go to bed at night) at the same time every day.
Create a Comfy Nap Time Environment
While many overworked adults might have little difficultly nodding off in the afternoon for a catnap, create a comfy nap environment for optimal rest: Draw the curtains and make sure you’re wearing something comfy, if not pajamas.
Give Yourself Time to Wake Up
When your nap timer rings, don’t move on quickly to your next task of the day. Allow for a few minutes to regroup. Wake yourself up slowly with some gentle stretching. Have a glass of water and a small snack to jumpstart the rest of your afternoon.
Embrace the Nap
For just a moment, forget about your to-do list and just let go. Remind yourself that not only will you feel better after 25 minutes of rest but you’ll perform better on the job, too. You deserve a nap today!